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Musk tells Twitter staff that “exceptional” employees can work remotely

In this photo illustration, Elon Musk's twitter account is displayed on a smartphone in front of a background with the twitter logo.

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Although Elon Musk recently banned remote work at both Tesla and SpaceX, he told Twitter employees today that he won’t necessarily impose the same policy at the social network. “If someone can only work remotely, and they’re exceptional, it wouldn’t make sense to fire them,” Musk said in a virtual town hall with Twitter staff, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Musk also pointed out that the work at Twitter is different from the work at Tesla. “Tesla makes cars, and you can’t make cars remotely,” he said, according to CNBC.

While his comments may be promising for those who want to keep working remotely, Musk reportedly did not provide specifics on how he’d handle remote work at Twitter if he completes the $44 billion acquisition. His reference to letting “exceptional” employees work remotely suggests that a Musk-led Twitter might reduce remote work options even if they aren’t banned completely.

“There is a hit one takes remotely, because it does reduce esprit de corps,” Musk also said during the town hall, according to CNN. “Even if someone is working remotely, they’ve got to come in sometimes so they recognize their colleagues… The bias for me may be strongly toward working in person, but if somebody is exceptional then remote work can be okay.”

Musk’s remote work memos

About two weeks ago, Musk sent nearly identical memos to all Tesla and SpaceX workers telling them they must be in the office at least 40 hours per week or leave the company. “Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week,” Musk wrote in the Tesla version of the memo. “Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

In a separate email to Tesla executive staff, Musk wrote, “If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly.” But the companywide email made no reference to exceptions.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has strongly supported remote work, telling employees in March that while all company offices are reopening, “the decisions about where you work, whether you feel safe traveling for business, and what events you attend, should be yours. As we open back up, our approach remains the same. Wherever you feel most productive and creative is where you will work and that includes working from home full-time forever.”

Twitter Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Berland, who moderated the talk with Musk today, reportedly said during the meeting that about 1,500 of Twitter’s employees work remotely. Twitter has about 8,000 employees overall.

Musk wants 1 billion Twitter users

Musk did not rule out job cuts when asked if he plans layoffs at Twitter. “Right now, [Twitter’s] costs exceed the revenue, so that’s not a great situation to be in,” he said, according to CNN. “But anyone who’s obviously like a significant contributor should have nothing to worry about.”

Musk reportedly said he’d like to grow Twitter’s daily active users from the current 229 million to “at least a billion people.” Twitter should “try to include as much of the country, as much of the world, as possible” by emulating WeChat, he said.

“You basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so usable and helpful to daily life, and I think if we can achieve that, or even get close to that at Twitter, it would be an immense success,” he said, according to CNN.

Musk talks “freedom of speech and freedom of reach”

Musk has said he wants to protect free speech on Twitter. He reiterated that goal to Twitter employees but acknowledged that there must be some limits so that users will be “comfortable on Twitter.”

“There’s freedom of speech and freedom of reach,” he said. “Anyone could just go into the middle of Times Square right now and say anything they want. They can just walk into the middle of Times Square and deny the Holocaust… but that doesn’t mean that needs to be promoted to millions of people. So I think people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things that are in the bounds of the law but that don’t get amplified and don’t get a ton of reach.”

Musk didn’t say whether he plans to take the CEO title at Twitter, but said he want to “drive the product in a particular direction.”

“There’s a lot of chores if you’re the CEO,” he said, according to Bloomberg. “I don’t really care what the title is, but obviously people do need to listen to me.”

Musk has been waffling on his commitment to buy Twitter in a dispute about spam-account data. He apparently did not give any firm update on Thursday regarding the acquisition’s likelihood of being completed. “Musk wasn’t directly asked and didn’t address the question of whether he is committed to buying Twitter,” Bloomberg wrote.

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